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Pictorial Speech-Bubble

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Gil Wulfenbach: Your orders are simple: Kill anyone who enters, except Dr. Sun and myself.
Bangaladesh DuPree: [with jaw wired shut] ((Man/Woman/Child?))
Girl Genius (Conversation is continued in the page image)

A picture is worth a thousand words, and some Speech Bubbles do, in fact, contain just this: a picture.

Pictorial Speech Bubbles are generally used in two ways. First, to show the general gist of what the character is saying, without focusing on what their exact words are. Second, to represent the character's general mood, attitude or thoughts, even when he isn't specifically saying anything. It's not always easy to tell the two variations apart.

Rebus Bubble, and Symbol Swearing are subtropes. Say It with Hearts would also happen, if an example had a Heart Symbol in it, or was just consisting of them. Compare also Speaking in Panels.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: It's a common occurrence in Part 7 to have images peppered in character's speech bubbles, but the trope is played completely straight in one panel where Gyro speaks and says nothing other an image of Diego Brando's head.
  • The second Lupin III manga series does this a few times with the Mars (♂) and Venus (♀)symbols during discussions of sex.

    Comic Books 
  • Gag comics such as Mortadelo y Filemón commonly have pictures in speech bubbles whenever a character is supposed to curse; for example, in the speech bubble there would be a pig with the face of another person if the character was angry and shouting at him, or just the picture of a turd when someone was supposed to say "shit!".
  • The Asterix comic books use speechbubbles with different typefaces to represent characters speaking in various languages. Egyptians speak in hieroglyphics. Once, when Obelix attempts to speak the Egyptians' language, his speechbubble is filled with badly drawn animals and stick-figures.
  • In Meta 4 by Ted McKeever this is how Gasolina talks. It's actually the font Dingbats, but the effect is the same.
  • In Polish comic book series Lil i Put ("Lil and Put") we are told that the language of the fairies sound like ringing of a bell, which is represented by drawings of ringing bells in their speechbubbles. As the stories progress we get plenty of different variation on their speechbubbles such as fairy welcoming a person has a picture of doorbell ringing, fairy calling for help has a picture of a fire-alarm, fairy yelling loudly has a bell tower to name just few.
  • A two page Fozzie Bear solo story in The Muppet Show Comic Book has this as a gimmick. Fozzie's jokes are represented by a picture of a chicken crossing the road and a picture of a dog with no nose. Then Statler and Waldorf shout out a picture of a trash can. Fozzie repeats this with a question mark, and the hecklers respond with the trash can sitting on a block of ice with Visible Odor. And so on.
  • Usagi Yojimbo frequently has characters getting killed (or suddenly revealed to be dead) emitting a word balloon with a picture of their species's skull.
  • Norby: In panel seven of chapter nine of the Norby, the Mixed-Up Robot adaptation, Fargo has a red question mark inside his speech bubble as the other protagonists move over to touch him.
  • In the X-Men comic books, mutant Artie does not speak a word, but can project his thoughts in the form of images as substitute (for the word balloons). This is seen more clearly, for example, in X-Men Unlimited #14 (1997) and Generation X (1994).

    Fan Works 

    Video Games 
  • In Theme Park, kids have this kind of bubbles hovering over their heads to show how they feel about your park or what is bothering them.
  • The Sims: The sims talk in these as otherwise they would be incomprehensible as they are Speaking Simlish. For example, a picture of fire for fire.
  • Web Game But That Was Yesterday. All of the characters who communicate in the game use this technique. For example, when someone wants to tell another character to "get up" or "jump", their speech bubble holds an up arrow.
  • In Jumper Three, Ogmo and the planet's natives communicate with each other using speech bubbles with pictures in them.
  • In Dubloon, when Russel saves Ricky without saving his owner Riley first, Ricky will ask where Riley is with a speech bubble depicting his head, to which Russel replies with speech bubble showing a shaking head.
  • The Prehistoric chapter of Live A Live has everyone talk this way, since spoken language doesn't exist yet.
  • The Maid of Fairewell Heights: A Heart Symbol one, when in the Alice Shop, Marshmallow says:
    I have the power to have my way with my beloved darling, I can do ANYTHING I want with him! ?
  • Epic Battle Fantasy: In the third game, one of Natalie's possible victory animations has her saying a Heart Symbol.
  • Pokémon Crystal: Misty says "♥" when you see her on her date at Cerulean Cape, in a combination with Say It with Hearts.
  • Hero & Daughter: Multiple uses:
    • A sweatdrop one is used by the King, when he's exasperated, in the intro cutscene.
    • When Lara's summoned, her first action is to have a Heart Symbol in this trope.
  • Characters in the Golden Sun series can "say" emotes, sweatdrops, Cross-Popping Veins when angry...
  • Remnants of Isolation: Melchior says a Sweat Drop after fighting a battle on the spur of land that houses the second lever of the forested area. Then, with his head down, he says:
    I... Oh man. Fighting on my own is rough!
    I need to get back to Celesta as soon as possible.
  • Oracle of Askigaga: The first guard that's possible to talk to, has one with a Sweatdrop, before describing Everything Except Most Things:
    Guard: Nothing to report, General!
    [Sweatdrop speech bubble]
    Well, except for the thief that tried to get by. And her accomplice that tried to distract us by being some merchant trying to sell... whatever.
    Oh yeah, there was that gal that was dressed as a maid, but there totally wasn't any maid-shifts scheduled for a while! Other than that, nothing to report!
    Oharu: You call that "nothing"?
    Hiroji: They are not matters that should concern a person of your position. I believe that's all she meant.
    Oharu: I suppose there is that point, but...
    Hiroji: Then don't concern yourself with it!
  • Tales of Symphonia: Sweatdrop ones are used when Genis and Lloyd are embarrassed about Colette accidentally breaking a wall.
  • Them's Fightin' Herds: Paprika (who most of the time can't be understood by the other characters spoke with a pictogram of a bottle of paprika to tell Arizona her name. Somehow, Arizona understood this.
  • A Very Long Rope to the Top of the Sky: If you agree to participate in an arena, the person you talk to for that says "♥", in a combination with Say It with Hearts.
  • Zone 66: The opening cinematic conveys the idea of main character possessing a wife and a child through a thought bubble image where she breastfeeds an infant.


    Web Animation 
  • The storytelling in Happy Tree Friends is usually limited to Speaking Simlish and actions, but this is still used on rare occasions. In "Doggone It", for example, Lumpy figuring out that the sound of a whistle is what makes Whistle go crazy is represented by him literally connecting the dots into one in a thought bubble.
  • In one of the origin comics, if not THE ORIGIN, of Battle for Dream Island, Woody speaks in pictures. However, when the show started he spoke only in incoherent babbling and screaming.
  • Every single character in Dan The Man is only capable of speaking in pictures, due to the series taking place inside an old-school video game. It is subverted in Stage 6 by Dan and Ana (two player characters) being able to properly speak to each other by the in-game chat and in Stages 14 and 15, where Josie (an NPC) learns to communicate the same way after she learns the truth about her existence.

    Western Animation 
  • In an episode of Family Guy, when Lois revealed that her wealthy father offered them a million dollars after she and Peter were newly married, but she turned it down because "they could make their own way", Peter has a thought bubble containing an animation that showed him killing Lois rather violently.
  • Shows up several times in Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur (2023) to reflect characters' states of emotions or something going on at the moment like someone calling off-camera or a phone ringing, in keeping with the comic book style of the show.
  • In Tiny Planets, the Simlish-Speaking protagonists occasionally produce pictorial thought bubbles — which appear to be visible to other people. In "Spring Cleaning", Bong has an idea and, after failing to explain it with Simlish and hand gestures, produces a pictorial thought bubble which Bing examines and nods thoughtfully.